CS Sealey

Sydney-based sub-editor, writer and author

The difference between effect and affect

TLDR: Mass Affect would’ve been a space melodrama, and terrible.

These two words come in very high on my list of pairs of words that are most often mixed up in the English language. Despite the fact that effect and affect have two considerably different meanings, confusing them is a common mistake. However, there is an easy tip to remember when trying to determine which is which.

effect (noun)—the resulting change of an action; the extent to which something succeeds; a physical event or phenomenon; an impression

The effects of the experiment were disastrous.

The cure was administered with great effect to the patients.

The butterfly effect is a complex theory.

Listening to birdsong has a relaxing effect first thing in the morning.

effect (verb)—the action of bringing about change

The principal effected a great many changes throughout the school year.

affect (verb)—to make a difference or have an effect on something; to touch the feelings or emotionally move someone

I noticed that the beer was negatively affecting his common sense.

The outcome of these peace talks will affect the political situation in the area.

Henry was visibly affected by her tears.

In most instances, effect will be used in its noun form, so deconstructing the sentence will help you figure out whether to use effect or affect. In the rare cases it is a verb, as in the above example, replace effect with bring about and see if it still makes sense. For example:

The principal brought about a great many changes throughout the school year.

It makes sense, therefore effected is the correct word to use in this instance.

Good luck. Try not to let these two words affect you too much!

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